The Women’s Business Development Council has selected downtown New London as the site for a new Women's Business Center.
Headquartered in Stamford, the WBDC received a grant from the U.S. Small Business Administration to host the new center, the third in Connecticut to be operated under the council’s auspices.
SBA Women's Business Centers are a national network of more than 100 offices that offer counseling, training, networking, workshops, technical assistance, and mentoring to women entrepreneurs on a wide variety of business topics.
Located at 300 State Street, the New London center is the only WBC in eastern Connecticut.
"For a long time we’ve been looking at different cities in the state to expand to, and Congressman Courtney's office has been encouraging us for many years to consider opening an office in New London County," says Fran Pastore, CEO of the WBDC.
"The opportunity came up from the Small Business Administration to apply for a grant to expand the organization. Our proposal was strong enough, and we were awarded the opportunity."
Founded by Pastore, the WBDC has been operating in Connecticut for more than two decades.
The SBA originally announced that the new center would be located in Norwich, but Pastore says New London turned out to be a better fit for several reasons.
"We wanted to be located in a bigger city, and so when we applied for the grant we were thinking, Norwich is great—and we have stakeholders and clients in Norwich. But as we were waiting for the results of the grant process, we realized that New London was really the place to be, because we’re accustomed to being in more of an urban environment," she says.
"We also wanted to be in more of a downtown area that has some foot traffic, because we need to be available to people from all walks of life and all sorts of economic backgrounds."
Pastore also notes that New London is a multimodal transportation hub, an important factor in the locational decision.
"We wanted to be on the train line and near the ferry," she says.
The new center will serve southeastern Connecticut, including New London and Middlesex Counties.
The New London WBC is scheduled to open June 1, with a ribbon-cutting and grand opening planned for early summer.
"We’re hoping to begin offering some services by June 1 and plan to have a full program of services by September," says Pastore.
The WBDC is currently recruiting for several open positions for the New London center.
The first thing we have to do is outreach in the community.
"When we embark on a new endeavor and go into a new community, although we have evidence of a need in that community, our success depends on people coming out and recognizing the service is there," she says.
“So the first thing we have to do is outreach in the community.”
Find a Women's Business Center Near You
In fiscal 2017, the SBA’s Women's Business Center program counseled and trained nearly 150,000 entrepreneurs nationwide.
"It’s a great time to be a woman entrepreneur," said assistant administrator for the SBA’s Office of Women's Business Ownership Kathy McShane in an SBA news release.
"This year marks 30 years of the Women’s Business Center program, and the expansion of the new center will provide vital resources to women entrepreneurs."
Connecticut is now home to four SBA Women's Business Centers:
- The University of Hartford, Women's Business Center, Founders Business Park, 222 Pitkin Street, East Hartford, CT 06108 (860.768.5681)
- Southeastern Connecticut Women's Business Center, 300 State Street, Suite 419 New London, CT 06320 (860.574.9246)
- Stamford Women's Business Center, 184 Bedford Street, Suite 201, Stamford, CT 06901 (203.353.1750)
- Naugatuck Valley Women's Business Center, 412 Roosevelt Drive, Derby, CT 06418 (203.751.9550)
For more information visit the Women's Business Development Council or call 203.353.1750.
Register now for When Women Lead, June 1, from 8 to 11:50 a.m at the Infinity Music Hall in Hartford.